An important question every ecommerce business should ask itself is: are you sharing your customer data, and if so, is it with the wrong people?Who Wants Your Customer's Data?
The answer is: everyone. Or, at least any company who is your potential competitor, big or small. Even app and tool creators are eager to get analytics and user information. Some large corporations have been known to buy businesses simply to get their hands on data.
Could You Share Customer Data and Not Even Realize It?
Think about all those services you have signed up for. Maybe you have a Google Adwords or Google Analytics account linked up with your ecommerce website. Maybe you have some added widgets or apps to make your ecommerce website mobile friendly.
Any one of these services could be collecting data about you and your customers, becoming the "third party" that you never expected. While some of the data might be anonymous, they could still be using it for their own purposes.What's the Worst That Can Happen?
Take a moment and think back to the news stories over the last couple of years related to customer data leaks. You have data stolen from Acer, Ashampoo, Bank of America, Barclays, Betfair, Citi, EA, Kroger, Morgan Stanley, People's Gas, Sega, Sony, T Mobile, Travelodge and more.
In each of these cases, the businesses in question spent millions beefing up security, running PR campaigns, and undoing the damage that was caused by the data thefts. Even then, they have not been able to save the bad reputation that came along with it. A lot of time has passed, but people still remember the slips and wonder if next time it will be their personal data that will be stolen.
Putting that into context for you, these were multi-billion dollar corporations who had the money to save themselves. But when a small or medium business will not have unlimited funds to buy their way out of trouble. They will lose the credibility that they have so painstakingly earned.
It isn't uncommon to see a small business having to shut down, or file for bankruptcy, as a consequence of such an event. All it takes is one problem, and it could be the catalyst that ruins the already tenuous balance of small businesses everywhere.How Can I Protect My Customer's Data?
When you weigh the risks of losing customer data (or just sharing it with companies you didn't intend), it can be pretty intimidating. The point is further driven home when you realize that the companies who have suffered, have been super giants who had millions to spend on security.
But in the end, there are some very simple tips you can follow to help protect customer data, and as a consequence your business. First, take a quick look at the official source of Data Security Standards documents and payment card compliance guidelines from the PCI Security Standards Council.Important Measures to Secure Data
- Use tokenization for all user data. A common method for keeping personally identifiable information (PII) from running through servers during transactions, tokenization is the use of symbols in place of letters or numbers. Thankfully, a number of security software and platforms provide this as a general feature, so make sure you check with your chosen program.
- Check the data policies of all third party companies and services your business uses. You might be in for a surprise.
- Use a two-factor authentication process. Single step verifications present a low level of challenge to hackers. Which is why companies are increasingly using a two factor authentication process to help eliminate suspicious account activity.
- Make sure your employees have a grasp of proper data collection and protection protocol. They should know how to initially handle data, how to verify the identity of a customer, what to do in case of a breach, and how to spot suspicious activity.